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Tribe To Begin Building Hotel, Arena In Summer Gambling Enterprise Expanding After Limits Fail In Legislature

Tue., May 13, 1997

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s dream of building a hotel and expanding its casino soon will be a $12 million reality.

The tribe plans to begin building the 90-room hotel and a 3,000-seat sports and music arena this summer. The tribe also plans to add several hundred video gambling machines to its current 420. And a restaurant and convenience store are in the works.

All that in the tiny town of Worley, Idaho, about 25 minutes south of Coeur d’Alene.

“We’ll add about another 50 jobs, and if we maintain sales, we could have another 100 easily,” said Dave Matheson, manager of the tribe’s gaming operations.

The entire project is expected to open next February or March.

The tribe long has planned to expand but put off the project because of political hurdles. But the 1997 Legislature didn’t move against gaming as tribes had feared.

“Now we just feel it’s time to go,” Matheson said.

The Coeur d’Alenes, like other Northwest tribes, are using casinos to bolster other businesses - the same strategy used by the giant Harrah’s and Hiltons of the gambling world.

And because of the casino draw, tribal ventures are successful - despite being located in rural areas that otherwise would seem a bad gamble for business.

The bingo hall already has featured concerts, such as one with country star Waylon Jennings. Another country show, this time with George Jones, is planned.

And boxing has become a standing-room-only affair there. During the last two fights, all 2,200 tickets were sold.

“With more seats, we’ll be be able to do bigger-name fights and bigger-name entertainment,” Matheson said.

The tribe also hopes to use the hotel and arena to host conventions or other events, tribal press secretary Bob Bostwick said. “I’m sure it’s going to be flexible enough to accommodate anything anyone wants to do.”

The move seemed only logical, Bostwick said, because the casino alone has been so popular. Last year, it made $8 million.

The tribe thinks it will make even more with this expansion. That’s not a wild idea - other tribes that have combined gambling with resort-style entertainment have won big.

The Kootenai Tribe opened its hotel and casino combo 10 years ago. Now, the tribe is the second largest employer in Boundary County. Thanks to the casino, guests are drawn to the 47-room Best Western during snow, rain or shine.

“We’re busy all year,” said Becky Wyatt, who works at the hotel’s front desk. “Customers are from Montana, Washington, Canada - everywhere.”

Richard Mayuk, treasurer of the Kootenai Tribal Council, said the hotel is more successful than most. “Our occupancy is (typically) 85 percent, which is 20 percent above industry standard.”

Mayuk said he doesn’t see the larger Coeur d’Alene hotel as competition. “We’re far apart,” he said. “It won’t affect us at all.”

In Washington, the Spokane Tribe’s Two Rivers Resort and Casino is expanding. The resort now has 29 recreational vehicle sites, a 160-slip marina and 32 tent sites.

Last year, the Spokanes spent $3.2 million on the new marina. And the tribe will expand its number of RV spaces to 100 by Memorial Day.

“It’s busy,” said a resort employee who wouldn’t give her name. “We’re almost completely booked already for the Fourth of July.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Drawing

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